PURPOSE: Neurosurgeons can have a better understanding of surgical procedures by comparing ultrasound images obtained at different phases of the tumor resection. However, establishing a direct mapping between subsequent acquisitions is challenging due to the anatomical changes happening during surgery. We propose here a method to improve the registration of ultrasound volumes, by excluding the resection cavity from the registration process. METHODS: The first step of our approach includes the automatic segmentation of the resection cavities in ultrasound volumes, acquired during and after resection. We used a convolution neural network inspired by the 3D U-Net. Then, subsequent ultrasound volumes are registered by excluding the contribution of resection cavity. RESULTS: Regarding the segmentation of the resection cavity, the proposed method achieved a mean DICE index of 0.84 on 27 volumes. Concerning the registration of the subsequent ultrasound acquisitions, we reduced the mTRE of the volumes acquired before and during resection from 3.49 to 1.22 mm. For the set of volumes acquired before and after removal, the mTRE improved from 3.55 to 1.21 mm. CONCLUSIONS: We proposed an innovative registration algorithm to compensate the brain shift affecting ultrasound volumes obtained at subsequent phases of neurosurgical procedures. To the best of our knowledge, our method is the first to exclude automatically segmented resection cavities in the registration of ultrasound volumes in neurosurgery.
We introduce an approach for image segmentation based on sparse correspondences between keypoints in testing and training images. Keypoints represent automatically identified distinctive image locations, where each keypoint correspondence suggests a transformation between images. We use these correspondences to transfer label maps of entire organs from the training images to the test image. The keypoint transfer algorithm includes three steps: (i) keypoint matching, (ii) voting-based keypoint labeling, and (iii) keypoint-based probabilistic transfer of organ segmentations. We report segmentation results for abdominal organs in whole-body CT and MRI, as well as in contrast-enhanced CT and MRI. Our method offers a speed-up of about three orders of magnitude in comparison to common multi-atlas segmentation, while achieving an accuracy that compares favorably. Moreover, keypoint transfer does not require the registration to an atlas or a training phase. Finally, the method allows for the segmentation of scans with highly variable field-of-view.
Neuroimaging studies typically adopt a common feature space for all data, which may obscure aspects of neuroanatomy only observable in subsets of a population, e.g. cortical folding patterns unique to individuals or shared by close relatives. Here, we propose to model individual variability using a distinctive keypoint signature: a set of unique, localized patterns, detected automatically in each image by a generic saliency operator. The similarity of an image pair is then quantified by the proportion of keypoints they share using a novel Jaccard-like measure of set overlap. Experiments demonstrate the keypoint method to be highly efficient and accurate, using a set of 7536 T1-weighted MRIs pooled from four public neuroimaging repositories, including twins, non-twin siblings, and 3334 unique subjects. All same-subject image pairs are identified by a similarity threshold despite confounds including aging and neurodegenerative disease progression. Outliers reveal previously unknown data labeling inconsistencies, demonstrating the usefulness of the keypoint signature as a computational tool for curating large neuroimage datasets.
This paper presents an efficient approach to quantifying image registration uncertainty based on a low-dimensional representation of geometric deformations. In contrast to previous methods, we develop a Bayesian diffeomorphic registration framework in a bandlimited space, rather than a high-dimensional image space. We show that a dense posterior distribution on deformation fields can be fully characterized by much fewer parameters, which dramatically reduces the computational complexity of model inferences. To further avoid heavy computation loads introduced by random sampling algorithms, we approximate a marginal posterior by using Laplace's method at the optimal solution of log-posterior distribution. Experimental results on both 2D synthetic data and real 3D brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans demonstrate that our method is significantly faster than the state-of-the-art diffeomorphic registration uncertainty quantification algorithms, while producing comparable results.
Jie Luo, Alireza Sedghi, Karteek Popuri, Dana Cobzas, Miaomiao Zhang, Frank Preiswerk, Matthew Toews, Alexandra Golby, Masashi Sugiyama, William III M Wells, and Sarah Frisken. 10/2019. “On the Applicability of Registration Uncertainty.” In MICCAI 2019, LNCS 11765: Pp. 410-9. Shenzhen, China: Springer.Abstract
Estimating the uncertainty in (probabilistic) image registration enables, e.g., surgeons to assess the operative risk based on the trustworthiness of the registered image data. If surgeons receive inaccurately calculated registration uncertainty and misplace unwarranted confidence in the alignment solutions, severe consequences may result. For probabilistic image registration (PIR), the predominant way to quantify the registration uncertainty is using summary statistics of the distribution of transformation parameters. The majority of existing research focuses on trying out different summary statistics as well as means to exploit them. Distinctively, in this paper, we study two rarely examined topics: (1) whether those summary statistics of the transformation distribution most informatively represent the registration uncertainty; (2) Does utilizing the registration uncertainty always be beneficial. We show that there are two types of uncertainties: the transformation uncertainty, Ut, and label uncertainty Ul. The conventional way of using Ut to quantify Ul is inappropriate and can be misleading. By a real data experiment, we also share a potentially critical finding that making use of the registration uncertainty may not always be an improvement.
We address the problem of interpolating randomly non-uniformly spatiotemporally scattered uncertain motion measurements, which arises in the context of soft tissue motion estimation. Soft tissue motion estimation is of great interest in the field of image-guided soft-tissue intervention and surgery navigation, because it enables the registration of pre-interventional/pre-operative navigation information on deformable soft-tissue organs. To formally define the measurements as spatiotemporally scattered motion signal samples, we propose a novel motion field representation. To perform the interpolation of the motion measurements in an uncertainty-aware optimal unbiased fashion, we devise a novel Gaussian process (GP) regression model with a non-constant-mean prior and an anisotropic covariance function and show through an extensive evaluation that it outperforms the state-of-the-art GP models that have been deployed previously for similar tasks. The employment of GP regression enables the quantification of uncertainty in the interpolation result, which would allow the amount of uncertainty present in the registered navigation information governing the decisions of the surgeon or intervention specialist to be conveyed.
PURPOSE: Matching points that are derived from features or landmarks in image data is a key step in some medical imaging applications. Since most robust point matching algorithms claim to be able to deal with outliers, users may place high confidence in the matching result and use it without further examination. However, for tasks such as feature-based registration in image-guided neurosurgery, even a few mismatches, in the form of invalid displacement vectors, could cause serious consequences. As a result, having an effective tool by which operators can manually screen all matches for outliers could substantially benefit the outcome of those applications. METHODS: We introduce a novel variogram-based outlier screening method for vectors. The variogram is a powerful geostatistical tool for characterizing the spatial dependence of stochastic processes. Since the spatial correlation of invalid displacement vectors, which are considered as vector outliers, tends to behave differently than normal displacement vectors, they can be efficiently identified on the variogram. RESULTS: We validate the proposed method on 9 sets of clinically acquired ultrasound data. In the experiment, potential outliers are flagged on the variogram by one operator and further evaluated by 8 experienced medical imaging researchers. The matching quality of those potential outliers is approximately 1.5 lower, on a scale from 1 (bad) to 5 (good), than valid displacement vectors. CONCLUSION: The variogram is a simple yet informative tool. While being used extensively in geostatistical analysis, it has not received enough attention in the medical imaging field. We believe there is a good deal of potential for clinically applying the proposed outlier screening method. By way of this paper, we also expect researchers to find variogram useful in other medical applications that involve motion vectors analyses.
PURPOSE: The brain undergoes significant structural change over the course of neurosurgery, including highly nonlinear deformation and resection. It can be informative to recover the spatial mapping between structures identified in preoperative surgical planning and the intraoperative state of the brain. We present a novel feature-based method for achieving robust, fully automatic deformable registration of intraoperative neurosurgical ultrasound images. METHODS: A sparse set of local image feature correspondences is first estimated between ultrasound image pairs, after which rigid, affine and thin-plate spline models are used to estimate dense mappings throughout the image. Correspondences are derived from 3D features, distinctive generic image patterns that are automatically extracted from 3D ultrasound images and characterized in terms of their geometry (i.e., location, scale, and orientation) and a descriptor of local image appearance. Feature correspondences between ultrasound images are achieved based on a nearest-neighbor descriptor matching and probabilistic voting model similar to the Hough transform. RESULTS: Experiments demonstrate our method on intraoperative ultrasound images acquired before and after opening of the dura mater, during resection and after resection in nine clinical cases. A total of 1620 automatically extracted 3D feature correspondences were manually validated by eleven experts and used to guide the registration. Then, using manually labeled corresponding landmarks in the pre- and post-resection ultrasound images, we show that our feature-based registration reduces the mean target registration error from an initial value of 3.3 to 1.5 mm. CONCLUSIONS: This result demonstrates that the 3D features promise to offer a robust and accurate solution for 3D ultrasound registration and to correct for brain shift in image-guided neurosurgery.
A reliable Ultrasound (US)-to-US registration method to compensate for brain shift would substantially improve Image-Guided Neurological Surgery. Developing such a registration method is very challenging, due to factors such as the tumor resection, the complexity of brain pathology and the demand for fast computation. We propose a novel feature-driven active registration framework. Here, landmarks and their displacement are first estimated from a pair of US images using corresponding local image features. Subsequently, a Gaussian Process (GP) model is used to interpolate a dense deformation field from the sparse landmarks. Kernels of the GP are estimated by using variograms and a discrete grid search method. If necessary, the user can actively add new landmarks based on the image context and visualization of the uncertainty measure provided by the GP to further improve the result. We retrospectively demonstrate our registration framework as a robust and accurate brain shift compensation solution on clinical data.
Current theories hold that brain function is highly related to long-range physical connections through axonal bundles, namely extrinsic connectivity. However, obtaining a groupwise cortical parcellation based on extrinsic connectivity remains challenging. Current parcellation methods are computationally expensive; need tuning of several parameters or rely on ad-hoc constraints. Furthermore, none of these methods present a model for the cortical extrinsic connectivity of the cortex. To tackle these problems, we propose a parsimonious model for the extrinsic connectivity and an efficient parceling technique based on clustering of tractograms. Our technique allows the creation of single subject and groupwise parcellations of the whole cortex. The parcellations obtained with our technique are in agreement with structural and functional parcellations in the literature. In particular, the motor and sensory cortex are subdivided in agreement with the human homunculus of Penfield. We illustrate this by comparing our resulting parcels with the motor strip mapping included in the Human Connectome Project data.
This paper presents a method for automatically calibrating and assessing the calibration quality of an externally tracked 2-D ultrasound (US) probe by scanning arbitrary, natural tissues, as opposed a specialized calibration phantom as is the typical practice. A generative topic model quantifies the posterior probability of calibration parameters conditioned on local 2-D image features arising from a generic underlying substrate. Auto-calibration is achieved by identifying the maximum a-posteriori image-to-probe transform, and calibration quality is assessed online in terms of the posterior probability of the current image-to-probe transform. Both are closely linked to the 3-D point reconstruction error (PRE) in aligning feature observations arising from the same underlying physical structure in different US images. The method is of practical importance in that it operates simply by scanning arbitrary textured echogenic structures, e.g., in-vivo tissues in the context of the US-guided procedures, without requiring specialized calibration procedures or equipment. Observed data take the form of local scale-invariant features that can be extracted and fit to the model in near real-time. Experiments demonstrate the method on a public data set of in vivo human brain scans of 14 unique subjects acquired in the context of neurosurgery. Online calibration assessment can be performed at approximately 3 Hz for the US images of pixels. Auto-calibration achieves an internal mean PRE of 1.2 mm and a discrepancy of [2 mm, 6 mm] in comparison to the calibration via a standard phantom-based method.
Using electroencephalography (EEG) to elucidate the spontaneous activation of brain resting-state networks (RSNs) is nontrivial as the signal of interest is of low amplitude and it is difficult to distinguish the underlying neural sources. Using the principles of electric field topographical analysis, it is possible to estimate the meta-stable states of the brain (i.e., the resting-state topographies, so-called microstates). We estimated seven resting-state topographies explaining the EEG data set with k-means clustering (N = 164, 256 electrodes). Using a method specifically designed to localize the sources of broadband EEG scalp topographies by matching sensor and source space temporal patterns, we demonstrated that we can estimate the EEG RSNs reliably by measuring the reproducibility of our findings. After subtracting their mean from the seven EEG RSNs, we identified seven state-specific networks. The mean map includes regions known to be densely anatomically and functionally connected (superior frontal, superior parietal, insula, and anterior cingulate cortices). While the mean map can be interpreted as a "router," crosslinking multiple functional networks, the seven state-specific RSNs partly resemble and extend previous functional magnetic resonance imaging-based networks estimated as the hemodynamic correlates of four canonical EEG microstates.
We present an efficient probabilistic model of anatomical variability in a linear space of initial velocities of diffeomorphic transformations and demonstrate its benefits in clinical studies of brain anatomy. To overcome the computational challenges of the high dimensional deformation-based descriptors, we develop a latent variable model for principal geodesic analysis (PGA) based on a low dimensional shape descriptor that effectively captures the intrinsic variability in a population. We define a novel shape prior that explicitly represents principal modes as a multivariate complex Gaussian distribution on the initial velocities in a bandlimited space. We demonstrate the performance of our model on a set of 3D brain MRI scans from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) database. Our model yields a more compact representation of group variation at substantially lower computational cost than the state-of-the-art method such as tangent space PCA (TPCA) and probabilistic principal geodesic analysis (PPGA) that operate in the high dimensional image space.
Segmentation is a fundamental task for extracting semantically meaningful regions from an image. The goal of segmentation algorithms is to accurately assign object labels to each image location. However, image noise, shortcomings of algorithms, and image ambiguities cause uncertainty in label assignment. Estimating this uncertainty is important in multiple application domains, such as segmenting tumors from medical images for radiation treatment planning. One way to estimate these uncertainties is through the computation of posteriors of Bayesian models, which is computationally prohibitive for many practical applications. However, most computationally efficient methods fail to estimate label uncertainty. We therefore propose in this paper the active mean fields (AMF) approach, a technique based on Bayesian modeling that uses a mean-field approximation to efficiently compute a segmentation and its corresponding uncertainty. Based on a variational formulation, the resulting convex model combines any label-likelihood measure with a prior on the length of the segmentation boundary. A specific implementation of that model is the Chan-Vese segmentation model, in which the binary segmentation task is defined by a Gaussian likelihood and a prior regularizing the length of the segmentation boundary. Furthermore, the Euler-Lagrange equations derived from the AMF model are equivalent to those of the popular Rudin-Osher-Fatemi (ROF) model for image denoising. Solutions to the AMF model can thus be implemented by directly utilizing highly efficient ROF solvers on log-likelihood ratio fields. We qualitatively assess the approach on synthetic data as well as on real natural and medical images. For a quantitative evaluation, we apply our approach to the tt icgbench dataset.
We propose a non-parametric approach for characterizing heterogeneous diseases in large-scale studies. We target diseases where multiple types of pathology present simultaneously in each subject and a more severe disease manifests as a higher level of tissue destruction. For each subject, we model theof local image descriptors as samples generated by an unknown subject-specific probability density. Instead of approximating the probability density via a parametric family, we propose to side step the parametric inference by directly estimating the divergence between subject densities. Our method maps the collection of local image descriptors to a signaturethat is used to predict a clinical measurement. We are able to interpret the prediction of the clinical variable in the population and individual levels by carefully studying the divergences. We illustrate an application this method on simulated data as well as on a large-scale lung CT study of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Our approach outperforms classical methods on both simulated and COPD data and demonstrates the state-of-the-art prediction on an important physiologic measure of airflow (the forced respiratory volume in one second, FEV1).
We propose a method for the automated identification of key white matter fiber tracts for neurosurgical planning, and we apply the method in a retrospective study of 18 consecutive neurosurgical patients with brain tumors. Our method is designed to be relatively robust to challenges in neurosurgical tractography, which include peritumoral edema, displacement, and mass effect caused by mass lesions. The proposed method has two parts. First, we learn a data-driven white matter parcellation or fiber cluster atlas using groupwise registration and spectral clustering of multi-fiber tractography from healthy controls. Key fiber tract clusters are identified in the atlas. Next, patient-specific fiber tracts are automatically identified using tractography-based registration to the atlas and spectral embedding of patient tractography. Results indicate good generalization of the data-driven atlas to patients: 80% of the 800 fiber clusters were identified in all 18 patients, and 94% of the 800 fiber clusters were found in 16 or more of the 18 patients. Automated subject-specific tract identification was evaluated by quantitative comparison to subject-specific motor and language functional MRI, focusing on the arcuate fasciculus (language) and corticospinal tracts (motor), which were identified in all patients. Results indicate good colocalization: 89 of 95, or 94%, of patient-specific language and motor activations were intersected by the corresponding identified tract. All patient-specific activations were within 3mm of the corresponding language or motor tract. Overall, our results indicate the potential of an automated method for identifying fiber tracts of interest for neurosurgical planning, even in patients with mass lesions.
Using image-based descriptors to investigate clinical hypotheses and therapeutic implications is challenging due to the notorious "curse of dimensionality" coupled with a small sample size. In this paper, we present a low-dimensional analysis of anatomical shape variability in the space of diffeomorphisms and demonstrate its benefits for clinical studies. To combat the high dimensionality of the deformation descriptors, we develop a probabilistic model of principal geodesic analysis in a bandlimited low-dimensional space that still captures the underlying variability of image data. We demonstrate the performance of our model on a set of 3D brain MRI scans from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) database. Our model yields a more compact representation of group variation at substantially lower computational cost than models based on the high-dimensional state-of-the-art approaches such as tangent space PCA (TPCA) and probabilistic principal geodesic analysis (PPGA).
The ability to detect neuronal currents with high spatiotemporal resolution using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is important for studying human brain function in both health and disease. While significant progress has been made, we still lack evidence showing that it is possible to measure an MR signal time-locked to neuronal currents with a temporal waveform matching concurrently recorded local field potentials (LFPs). Also lacking is evidence that such MR data can be used to image current distribution in active tissue. Since these two results are lacking even in vitro, we obtained these data in an intact isolated whole cerebellum of turtle during slow neuronal activity mediated by metabotropic glutamate receptors using a gradient-echo EPI sequence (TR=100ms) at 4.7T. Our results show that it is possible (1) to reliably detect an MR phase shift time course matching that of the concurrently measured LFP evoked by stimulation of a cerebellar peduncle, (2) to detect the signal in single voxels of 0.1mm3, (3) to determine the spatial phase map matching the magnetic field distribution predicted by the LFP map, (4) to estimate the distribution of neuronal current in the active tissue from a group-average phase map, and (5) to provide a quantitatively accurate theoretical account of the measured phase shifts. The peak values of the detected MR phase shifts were 0.27-0.37°, corresponding to local magnetic field changes of 0.67-0.93nT (for TE=26ms). Our work provides an empirical basis for future extensions to in vivo imaging of neuronal currents.
Registration of multiple 3D ultrasound sectors in order to provide an extended field of view is important for the appreciation of larger anatomical structures at high spatial and temporal resolution. In this paper, we present a method for fully automatic spatio-temporal registration between two partially overlapping 3D ultrasound sequences. The temporal alignment is solved by aligning the normalized cross correlation-over-time curves of the sequences. For the spatial alignment, corresponding 3D Scale Invariant Feature Transform (SIFT) features are extracted from all frames of both sequences independently of the temporal alignment. A rigid transform is then calculated by least squares minimization in combination with random sample consensus. The method is applied to 16 echocardiographic sequences of the left and right ventricles and evaluated against manually annotated temporal events and spatial anatomical landmarks. The mean distances between manually identified landmarks in the left and right ventricles after automatic registration were (mean ± SD) 4.3 ± 1.2 mm compared to a reference error of 2.8 ± 0.6 mm with manual registration. For the temporal alignment, the absolute errors in valvular event times were 14.4 ± 11.6 ms for Aortic Valve (AV) opening, 18.6 ± 16.0 ms for AV closing, and 34.6 ± 26.4 ms for mitral valve opening, compared to a mean inter-frame time of 29 ms.
Karl-Heinz Nenning, Julia Furtner, Barbara Kiesel, Ernst Schwartz, Thomas Roetzer, Nikolaus Fortelny, Christoph Bock, Anna Grisold, Martha Marko, Fritz Leutmezer, Hesheng Liu, Polina Golland, Sophia Stoecklein, Johannes A Hainfellner, Gregor Kasprian, Daniela Prayer, Christine Marosi, Georg Widhalm, Adelheid Woehrer, and Georg Langs. 10/2020. “Distributed Changes of the Functional Connectome in Patients with Glioblastoma.” Sci Rep, 10, 1, Pp. 18312.Abstract
Glioblastoma might have widespread effects on the neural organization and cognitive function, and even focal lesions may be associated with distributed functional alterations. However, functional changes do not necessarily follow obvious anatomical patterns and the current understanding of this interrelation is limited. In this study, we used resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate changes in global functional connectivity patterns in 15 patients with glioblastoma. For six patients we followed longitudinal trajectories of their functional connectome and structural tumour evolution using bi-monthly follow-up scans throughout treatment and disease progression. In all patients, unilateral tumour lesions were associated with inter-hemispherically symmetric network alterations, and functional proximity of tumour location was stronger linked to distributed network deterioration than anatomical distance. In the longitudinal subcohort of six patients, we observed patterns of network alterations with initial transient deterioration followed by recovery at first follow-up, and local network deterioration to precede structural tumour recurrence by two months. In summary, the impact of focal glioblastoma lesions on the functional connectome is global and linked to functional proximity rather than anatomical distance to tumour regions. Our findings further suggest a relevance for functional network trajectories as a possible means supporting early detection of tumour recurrence.
Using positron emission tomography, we recently demonstrated elevated brain levels of the 18kDa translocator protein (TSPO), a glial activation marker, in chronic low back pain (cLBP) patients, compared to healthy controls (HC). Here, we first sought to replicate the original findings in an independent cohort (15 cLBP, 37.8±12.5 y/o; 18 HC, 48.2±12.8 y/o). We then trained random forest (RF) machine learning algorithms based on TSPO imaging features combining discovery and replication cohorts (totaling 25 cLBP, 42.4±13.2 y/o; 27 HC, 48.9±12.6 y/o), in order to explore whether image features other than the mean contain meaningful information that might contribute to the discrimination of cLBP patients and HC. Feature importance was ranked usind SHapley Additive exPlanations (SHAP) values, and the classification performance (in terms of AUC values) of classifiers containing only the mean, other features, or all features was compared using the DeLong test. Both region-of-interest (ROI) and voxelwise analyses replicated the original observation of thalamic TSPO signal elevations in cLBP patients compared to HC (p's<0.05). The RF-based analyses revealed that while the mean is a discriminating feature, other features demonstrate similar level of importance, including the maximum, kurtosis and entropy.Our observations suggest that thalamic neuroinflammatory signal is a reproducible and discriminating feature for cLBP, further supporting a role for glial activation in human chronic low back pain, and the exploration of neuroinflammation as a therapeutic target for chronic pain. This work further shows that TSPO signal contains a richness of information that the simple mean might fail to capture completely.
BACKGROUND: Extracellular free water within cerebral white matter tissue has been shown to increase with age and pathology, yet the cognitive consequences of free water in typical aging prior to the development of neurodegenerative disease remains unclear. Understanding the contribution of free water to cognitive function in older adults may provide important insight into the neural mechanisms of the cognitive aging process. METHODS: A diffusion-weighted MRI measure of extracellular free water as well as a commonly used diffusion MRI metric (fractional anisotropy) along nine bilateral white matter pathways were examined for their relationship with cognitive function assessed by the NIH Toolbox Cognitive Battery in 47 older adults (mean age = 74.4 years, SD = 5.4 years, range = 65-85 years). Probabilistic tractography at the 99th percentile level of probability (Tracts Constrained by Underlying Anatomy; TRACULA) was utilized to produce the pathways on which microstructural characteristics were overlaid and examined for their contribution to cognitive function independent of age, education, and gender. RESULTS: When examining the 99th percentile probability core white matter pathway derived from TRACULA, poorer fluid cognitive ability was related to higher mean free water values across the angular and cingulum bundles of the cingulate gyrus, as well as the corticospinal tract and the superior longitudinal fasciculus. There was no relationship between cognition and mean FA or free water-adjusted FA across the 99th percentile core white matter pathway. Crystallized cognitive ability was not associated with any of the diffusion measures. When examining cognitive domains comprising the NIH Toolbox Fluid Cognition index relationships with these white matter pathways, mean free water demonstrated strong hemispheric and functional specificity for cognitive performance, whereas mean FA was not related to age or cognition across the 99th percentile pathway. CONCLUSIONS: Extracellular free water within white matter appears to increase with normal aging, and higher values are associated with significantly lower fluid but not crystallized cognitive functions. When using TRACULA to estimate the core of a white matter pathway, a higher degree of free water appears to be highly specific to the pathways associated with memory, working memory, and speeded decision-making performance, whereas no such relationship existed with FA. These data suggest that free water may play an important role in the cognitive aging process, and may serve as a stronger and more specific indicator of early cognitive decline than traditional diffusion MRI measures, such as FA.
PURPOSE: To optimize diffusion-relaxation MRI with tensor-valued diffusion encoding for precise estimation of compartment-specific fractions, diffusivities, and T values within a two-compartment model of white matter, and to explore the approach in vivo. METHODS: Sampling protocols featuring different b-values (b), b-tensor shapes (b ), and echo times (TE) were optimized using Cramér-Rao lower bounds (CRLB). Whole-brain data were acquired in children, adults, and elderly with white matter lesions. Compartment fractions, diffusivities, and T values were estimated in a model featuring two microstructural compartments represented by a "stick" and a "zeppelin." RESULTS: Precise parameter estimates were enabled by sampling protocols featuring seven or more "shells" with unique b/b /TE-combinations. Acquisition times were approximately 15 minutes. In white matter of adults, the "stick" compartment had a fraction of approximately 0.5 and, compared with the "zeppelin" compartment, featured lower isotropic diffusivities (0.6 vs. 1.3 μm /ms) but higher T values (85 vs. 65 ms). Children featured lower "stick" fractions (0.4). White matter lesions exhibited high "zeppelin" isotropic diffusivities (1.7 μm /ms) and T values (150 ms). CONCLUSIONS: Diffusion-relaxation MRI with tensor-valued diffusion encoding expands the set of microstructure parameters that can be precisely estimated and therefore increases their specificity to biological quantities.
The corticospinal tract (CST) is one of the most well studied tracts in human neuroanatomy. Its clinical significance can be demonstrated in many notable traumatic conditions and diseases such as stroke, spinal cord injury (SCI) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). With the advent of diffusion MRI and tractography the computational representation of the human CST in a 3D model became available. However, the representation of the entire CST and, specifically, the hand motor area has remained elusive. In this paper we propose a novel method, using manually drawn ROIs based on robustly identifiable neuroanatomic structures to delineate the entire CST and isolate its hand motor representation as well as to estimate their variability and generate a database of their volume, length and biophysical parameters. Using 37 healthy human subjects we performed a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the CST and the hand-related motor fiber tracts (HMFTs). Finally, we have created variability heat maps from 37 subjects for both the aforementioned tracts, which could be utilized as a reference for future studies with clinical focus to explore neuropathology in both trauma and disease states.